The proportion of students with disabilities receiving education in general classrooms increases every year. It’s a trend that has become possible with the widespread use of Assistive Technology tools that are proving invaluable in bridging the gap between disabled students and their peers when it comes to learning potential. With the need to accommodate and support students with learning disabilities and other print-based impairments, an AT smart pen has become a popular resource completely replacing hired note-takers.
Smart Pens for Students With Disabilities
Smart pens are digital pens designed with both reading and writing. These devices do not look any different compared to regular ballpoint pens. However, they are capable of recording and synchronizing writing with audio. Students can record what they say or hear when taking notes. This information is searchable, can be saved, and played back regardless of whether they are audio or written content. The audio and written notes are then made accessible via the pen or computer as transferred files.
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Basics of Smart Pens
Presently, there are various smart pen models on the market. If you happen across the Echo™ or Livescribe Three™, they are both popular smart pens. The device models generally don’t have significant differences as they share similar functionalities.
Still, some may have small differences when it comes to compatible platforms and connectivity. For instance, some models require USBs to connect to a computer while others are wireless. Therefore, when shopping for a smart pen, you may want to research the models to see what suits your needs.
Areas of Use of Smart Pens
Smart pens are assistive technology devices that can help students with learning disabilities manage and succeed in inclusive environments. It offers instructional support as well as a means of accommodation. Here are three primary areas where smart pens are applicable and helpful.
1. Study Skills
Smart pens offer students a set of study skills to help them understand the information presented to them. These skills include ease of access and organization which can be achieved in several ways, including:
§ Audio-supported notes:
Students can utilize audio recording along with a simplified form of note-taking. During class sessions, the student may take brief notes while recording the class and later on expand on their work using the saved audio. This can be helpful for students who experience difficulties with following a class session or taking notes.
§ The use of pencast lessons:
A pencast lesson is another useful application of the smart pen technology to improve study skills. It is beneficial for both disabled students and others in need of extra assistance. A pencast lesson is a brief explanation and overview of a subject which a teacher demonstrates using a smart pen. The teacher writes notes on a digital paper while explaining the written content. Later the pencast lesson is uploaded online and made accessible to student via a web link.
§ Explanations for assignments:
Considering students with learning disabilities may have difficulties following quick-paced classroom discussions, teachers may use various methods such as the pencast to record written directions accompanied with audio explanations. These may serve as assignment guides.
2. Independent functioning
Another primary area of use for smart pens is the assistance of students to achieve independence in their studies. For those students who have a hard time organizing their work into a step-by-step actionable structure, a smart pen can help create an easy-to-follow class work structure. With a teacher’s direction, the student will breakdown their study structure and record it for reference.
3. Assessment Tests
Smart pens offer an alternative to the traditional text-to-speech screen reader. The regular reader is an effective AT tool that accommodates students with learning disabilities. However, during assessments, these students are forced to start and stop the reader at specific points.
Smart pens for students with disabilities offers a simplified approach that does not demand the “starting and stopping” feature every time you want to review questions. Teachers will need to record tests and multiple choices beforehand. Then the students can easily access individual test questions as desired.
Benefits of Smart Pens
Generally, the benefits of smart pens lie in their various application methods. Here are some of the proven benefits of smart pens for students with disabilities:
§ Improved Note-Taking
According to a study into the smart pen by Maynooth University in Ireland, smart pens improve the quality of note-taking in students with learning disabilities as it captures parts of a lecture they miss, don’t understand or remember.
§ Better Focus On Lessons
According to a study by Berkeley University, students with learning disabilities can experience stress when they miss a portion of a lecture. This kind of stress overload makes it difficult for these students to further focus on the class. Having a smart pen to record the lesson gives these students confidence, and consequently, they concentrate better in the classroom.
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§ Lesson Enjoyment
Students can enjoy lessons and get involved in classwork activities as they realize they are not at a disadvantage due to their disabilities.
§ Easy To Use With Training
Smart pen technology is designed to make the work of a student easier. The device is not technical, and with proper training, a student will utilize it in multiple innovative ways to assist their learning.
§ Students Can Work At their Own Pace
Normally, students with learning disabilities struggle to keep up with their peers in a general education classroom environment. They may require extra attention and supervision. Smart pens provide these students with unique assistance to help them study at their own pace.
§ Smart Pens Are Beneficial to Teachers
Aside from its benefits to students, smart pens also help teachers in assisting students with learning problems. The pens simplify the work of educators by eliminating the need to repeat concepts and supervise the needy students. They can record explanations and make them available to multiple students at once.
Several studies into the impact of smart pens for students struggling with learning disabilities have shown extremely positive results. This technology has transformed the learning environment for students who need assistance to perform successfully in a general education setting.
While adoption of the technology is still low regardless of its potential, continued awareness seems to be the best possible approach at the moment.